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Publisher's Summary

The Nickel Boys is Colson Whitehead's follow-up to the Pulitzer Prize- and National Book Award-winning best seller The Underground Railroad, in which he dramatises another strand of United States history, this time through the story of two boys sentenced to a stretch in a hellish reform school in Jim Crow-era Florida.    

Elwood Curtis has taken the words of Dr Martin Luther King to heart: he is as good as anyone. Abandoned by his parents, brought up by his loving, strict and clear-sighted grandmother, Elwood is about to enroll in the local black college. 

But given the time and the place, one innocent mistake is enough to destroy his future, and so Elwood arrives at The Nickel Academy, which claims to provide 'physical, intellectual and moral training' which will equip its inmates to become 'honorable and honest men'.  

In reality, the Nickel Academy is a chamber of horrors, where physical, emotional and sexual abuse is rife, where corrupt officials and tradesmen do a brisk trade in supplies intended for the school, and where any boy who resists is likely to disappear 'out back'. 

Stunned to find himself in this vicious environment, Elwood tries to hold on to Dr King's ringing assertion, 'Throw us in jail, and we will still love you.' But Elwood's fellow inmate and new friend Turner thinks Elwood is naive and worse; the world is crooked, and the only way to survive is to emulate the cruelty and cynicism of their oppressors.   

The tension between Elwood's idealism and Turner's scepticism leads to a decision which will have decades-long repercussions.   

Based on the history of a real reform school in Florida that operated for 111 years and warped and destroyed the lives of thousands of children, The Nickel Boys is a devastating, driven narrative by a great American novelist whose work is essential to understanding the current reality of the United States.

©2019 Colson Whitehead (P)2019 Hachette Audio UK

What listeners say about The Nickel Boys

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 08-10-20

Wow a suckerpunch of a book!

I loved this book, it was easy to follow on Audible and the narrator was steady and pleasant to listen to. A book that gets right into your head, your heart and thoughts. A must listen for anyone who is interested in Black oppression and wants to be more informed. Be warned this book is NOT for the faint hearted it involves violence and injustice. However, the way the violence is described is sympathetic and not at all gory or overly descriptive but for anyone with morals it will still get to you and make you ache with sadness and anger!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 06-21-20

Important and extraordinary

This is an important book for anyone who wants to get an insight into both institutional and casual racism.
It is also an extraordinary work of storytelling.i was hooked from the first to the last word.

1 person found this helpful

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  • DRJ London
  • 05-25-20

A must read

An excellent story; painful and captivating. Well written and perfectly narrated. A really good read.

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  • Tony Smith
  • 05-11-20

Cannot praise this book.highly enough

This book.will stay with.me for a long while. Haunting, Harrowing, Spellbinding and Soul renching

1 person found this helpful

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  • Paul Lomas
  • 04-01-21

Harrowing and brilliant

Simplistic language is used to fantastic effect to remind us all how close we still are to our history and to propel us towards a fairer future.

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  • Philby64
  • 03-02-21

Monotonous performance

Oh my, what a struggle it is to listen to this audiobook. Despite the high praise of many, I have found the performance dull and tedious. I intend to reread the book.

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  • Samantha Sweet
  • 01-19-21

This made me Weep

What an incredibly poignant and beautifully written novel even though the subject matter is devastating. In fact it’s mind-boggling that these things happened. But the fact that they did should be known. These people who did these things, to these poor and often innocent children... know what they did. And one day they will be judged!

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  • Amazon Customer
  • 01-19-21

A moving and powerful tale

A story that need to be heard in the time of BLM. I found the narration a little sleepy, but the writing kept it alive and compelling

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  • Ola
  • 11-12-20

Heart wrenching read

This book will grip your heart and mind from start to finish. The thrill and suspense. I was on edge till the end. Definitely not for the faint hearted. The wickedness that was allowed to perpetuate is difficult to accept or understand. Sadly it still goes on around us and we must remain vigilant and informed. Thank you Colson for your heart and for this beautiful and skillfully written book.

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  • Anonymous User
  • 11-04-20

Heartbreaking story based on real life experiences

Loved it! Good narration by author..
Heartbreaking and moving but unfortunately based on real life experiences

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  • milorad topic
  • 11-29-19

READ the book

It's a harrowing story of survival but on Audible it seems to lose its way when it shifts from the current to after boys home parts I lost the feel for the book and I stopped enjoying it. I stayed till the end anyway and still felt unsatisfied. I think its a book that needs to be read not listened too

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  • Vicky Draper
  • 05-13-20

Be patient

Even though I enjoyed this book overall, I struggled a little with the beginning. I did think it was quite clever but I didn't know quite how clever until the end!

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  • Anonymous User
  • 01-12-20

Wonderful

Wonderfully written and performed. I immediately listened to it a second time. Echoes of To Kill a Mockingbird.

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  • ELIZABETH
  • 11-14-19

Worthy

I hate to give Colson Whitehead a less than perfect review since he seems such a nice guy but this book didn't take off for me in the same way "The Underground Railroad" did. It's great that this kind of story gets told and who would have thought that sixty years ago such atrocities were still taking place. But, even though it is not a long book it still seemed drawn out. Maybe I should read the book to see if the narration had an effect. I guess the deadpan delivery was supposed to heighten the sense of outrage but just made for dull listening.